Last Updated on November 4, 2023 by Fredrick Miller
T-shirts that have been embellished with screen printing or heat transfer graphics look stylish. But which design process produces shirts that are more professional in appearance? The difference between screen printing and heat press transfer is essential whether you want to create your customized T-shirts or if you want to start an Etsy company selling T-shirts.
While heat-transfer graphics have more excellent quality and seem better when created, screen printing soaks into the fabric and lasts far longer than when used on clothing. Screen printing is applying layers of ink to cloth via the use of a tiny mesh screen. Heat transfer is applying heat to a vinyl graphic on a shirt.
The following essay will discuss the principles of screen printing vs heat transfer in detail. You will learn what materials you will need for each strategy as well. Finally, I will advise you on choosing which approach is the most appropriate for you!
Table of Contents
What is Screen Printing?
Screen printing is applying an ink-blocking stencil to a nylon mesh or screen to create an image. You will use ink to fill the stencil, which will be in liquid form. Afterward, you’ll take the stencil and transfer it to the textiles, and there you have it!! You now possess your tee shirt.
The use of screen printing is not appropriate for all designs. It takes more chemicals and equipment to make screen printing work than make a heat press. It is in the best interests of clothes firms.
What is a Heat Press?
It is one of the most recent advancements in the design of t-shirt prints. According to layman’s terms, it includes pressing your design into the material using a heat transfer machine. After that, you may apply pressure ranging from 40 to 80psi and a temperature of around 400 degrees Fahrenheit to the textiles to embed the pattern.
It is necessary to develop the artwork on a sheet of paper before putting it through a heat press machine review to do the hard lifting. Then, using a heat press machine, transfer the piece to your cloth.
Difference Between Screen Printing Vs Heat Transfer?
Now that you have a broad understanding of how each design approach works, what is the difference between screen printing and heat press transfer designs? For example, is creating a heat press design more challenging than creating a screen printed design? It is discussed in this part how each design technique performs in terms of essential criteria like durability, cost efficiency, and quality.
Whether screen printing or vinyl, which lasts longer? Screen printing nearly usually outlasts vinyl printing in terms of durability. Vinyl has a good shelf life and will continue to look good for far longer than a DTG print, although it will crack and fade with time.
If you compare the durability of these two patterns, the critical difference is that a screen print will soak ink into the fabric. Still, an HTV design will stay on the fabric’s surface, where it is more susceptible to cracking and fading.
After years of use, screen printing with properly heat-set plastisol ink should never fracture, peel, or fade if done correctly. According to some firms, the screen-print on your shirt should endure 50 washes in the washing machine. Others, however, believe that with appropriate care, your screen print should last as long as the fabric of your shirt!
Compared to screen printing on a tee-shirt, applying an HTV design to a t-shirt using a heat press is more straightforward and faster. The time required will vary significantly based on the kind of transfer design used and the intricacy of the print.
Although using vinyl is the more straightforward alternative, screen printing produces a design that is somewhat better in quality than using vinyl. The majority of this is dictated by the time required to set up each technique.
Heat press designs need the least amount of setup time. Once you have your digital strategy, all you have to do is submit it to your electronic cutter, where it will be cut out and then placed on your garment using transfer paper. Then all you have to do is heat press the design for the appropriate period inside your heat press.
In addition, if you want to make multiples of the same design, you may reuse your digital design repeatedly to keep cutting out vinyl shapes from it.
On the other hand, many materials, complicated equipment (if you want to work at a professional level), and considerable time are required for screen printing. The trade-off is that you may print in bulk and continue to use your displays once you have completed the necessary configuration. The downside is that screen printing is much more time-consuming than utilizing HTV.
Efficiency in terms of costs
Is it less expensive to use a heat press or a screen printer? Screen printing is more cost-effective than heat transfer designs since you can reuse your screens numerous times and produce fewer shirts at a lesser cost than heat transfer designs. However, this is dependent on a variety of circumstances.
On the other hand, basic heat transfer materials, such as vinyl, are far less expensive than the cost of plastisol ink and other chemicals for screen printing. If you need to make one or two shirts, you will discover that heat transfer designs are far less expensive. On the other hand, screen printing becomes much more cost-effective if you want to operate a company and produce t-shirts in large quantities.
There isn’t universal agreement on this, but there is a stronger case for the superior quality of screen prints over heat transfer patterns. It is simpler to overlay colors in screen printing than in HTV. Furthermore, screen-printing often produces more vibrant colors than heat transfer.
Furthermore, light-colored tees are the most excellent choice for heat transfer graphics since they show up the best. To get good screen printing results on both light and dark shirts, you must choose the appropriate ink color for the job.
Screen printing enables the creation of more complicated patterns with several layers of color. It can produce realistic picture images, mainly when used with a black and white photograph.
It uses vibrant, eye-catching hues and may be worn with either light or dark-colored clothing. Single-color HTV designs are beautiful, but they lack the richness and intense color of a screen print design’s overall appearance and feel.
Also Read: Best Sublimation Printer for Beginners
Designs that are Multi-Colored and Complex
Compared to heat transfer, screen printing allows you to produce more intricate or multi-colored graphics more quickly. Instead of utilizing vinyl, you might use a kind of printing and then heat transfer it onto the cloth. It is also possible to employ a heat transferred design in this situation for more detailed visuals.
The danger of employing this heat transfer design is that the ink will sit on top of the cloth and will not sink in as it would with a traditional screen print. It has a lower level of durability and will get damaged more rapidly upon washing.
More than one to three inks must be used to get a successful screen-print. The technique of creating sophisticated stencils on the displays is similar to that of developing pictures, and it allows you to layer colors and create intricate patterns on the screens.
In terms of speed, you can develop one or two HTV designs in minutes, which is far quicker than setting up a screen print. Alternatively, after you have completed the necessary setup, you can print in bulk utilizing screen printing and produce numerous shirts at once, which is far faster than creating bulk items using the heat transfer approach!
If you need to manufacture a handful of shirts, HTV will save you time and frustration. Screen printing can save you time if you need many t-shirts made quickly.
Screen printing makes it simple to print vast orders, but since each HTV design requires the same amount of effort, it isn’t easy to produce significant amounts of HTV.
The problem with utilizing vinyl is that you have to cut out a fresh piece of vinyl for each new shirt you want to make. You can indeed have the digital design ready to reuse at the touch of a button, but you’ll have to perform the cutting, transferring, and heat pressing for each shirt manually.
Once you’ve completed the time-consuming setup, screen printing allows you to print repeatedly, producing as many as 100 shirts in an hour!
If you have professional-quality screen printing equipment, you can fulfill huge orders of 100 or even 1,000 shirts with little effort. On the other hand, Vinyl heat transfer works well on small-scale orders of less than 100 pieces.
Photographs and other Visual Representations
You may print black and white pictures or images on-screen with relative ease; however, high-definition television (HTV) is often reserved for basic graphics rather than intricate photography. At the very least, you cannot layer heat transfer patterns easily without generating a thick lump on the cloth and making it feel rigid and unpleasant!
It is possible to print pictures and images on cloth using screen printing techniques, albeit it is most effective with black and white photographs. To generate detailed, screen-print stencils on the mesh screens, you may utilize a procedure similar to old-fashioned photographers developing negatives. This makes it possible to create complicated, multi-layered screen print patterns!
Fredrik Miller is the Founder of PrinterLake.com, a platform dedicated to providing information on sublimation printing. With a Master’s degree in Information Technology from Reputed University, Fredrik brings a wealth of technical knowledge and expertise to the site.
He leads a team of writers who are experts in the field and strive to deliver the best and most comprehensive information on sublimation printers, inks, and paper.